The work from our laboratory on complex I-deficient Chinese hamster cell mutants is reviewed. Several complementation groups with a complete defect have been identified. Three of these are due to X-linked mutations, and the mutated genes for two have been identified. We describe null mutants in the genes for the subunits MWFE (gene: NDUFA1) and ESSS. They represent small integral membrane proteins localized in the Ialpha (Igamma) and Ibeta subcomplexes, respectively [J. Hirst, J. Carroll, I.M. Fearnley, R.J. Shannon, J.E. Walker. The nuclear encoded subunits of complex I from bovine heart mitochondria. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1604 (7-10-2003) 135-150.]. Both are absolutely essential for assembly and activity of complex I. Epitope-tagged versions of these proteins can be expressed from a poly-cistronic vector to complement the mutants, or to be co-expressed with the endogenous proteins in other hamster cell lines (mutant or wild type), or human cells. Structure-function analyses can be performed with proteins altered by site-directed mutagenesis. A cell line has been constructed in which the MWFE subunit is conditionally expressed, opening a window on the kinetics of assembly of complex I. Its targeting, import into mitochondria, and orientation in the inner membrane have also been investigated. The two proteins have recently been shown to be the targets for a cAMP-dependent kinase [R. Chen, I.M. Fearnley, S.Y. Peak_Chew, J.E. Walker. The phosphorylation of subunits of complex I from bovine heart mitochondria. J. Biol. Chem. xx (2004) xx-xx.]. The epitope-tagged proteins can be cross-linked with other complex I subunits.